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Best and worst things to buy in December

Even those who don't like to shop are probably hitting the stores this month. Here's what to be on the lookout for and here's what to avoid.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 2, 2013 12:22PM

This post comes from Lindsay Sakraida and Louis Ramirez at partner site DealNews.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyDecember is a month when you almost can’t avoid shopping. You may have skipped Black Friday -- overwhelmed by the offers, hype and crowds -- but the holiday season is a different beast altogether, with gifts from loved ones, friends and people you barely know coming at you from all angles.

Maintain lots of holiday cheer by shopping wisely with our December buying guide.


We've pored over the extensive DealNews archives of sales, coupons and daily deals from years past to guide you in your quest for the most savvy purchases in December. Here's what we found.

Get good deals on toys … by still waiting

Finally, it's the best time to buy holiday toys! Almost. In 2012, many of the year's top toys hit their lowest prices of the season during the middle of the month. In fact, last year that time frame also saw an influx of Editors' Choice toy deals.

Keep in mind, however, that shopping mere days before Christmas is probably not wise; retailers realize that last-minute shoppers are desperate and less able to effectively comparison shop, and prices often reflect that.

Keep an eye out for gift card freebies

A popular promotion throughout the month of December -- especially among restaurants -- is to offer a free gift card to shoppers who purchase one as a gift. For example, last year California Pizza Kitchen offered a $20 gift card to anyone who purchased $100 or more in gift cards.

Retailers, on the other hand, are more likely to offer a gift card with purchases that reach a certain order threshold. For instance, L.L.Bean is offering a free $10 gift card to any customer who spends $50 or more.

Tools and hardware deals for Dad

Does Dad want a new drill for Christmas this year? Perfect! Like last month, December is an excellent time for tool and hardware deals. While the sheer volume of Editors' Choice deals dips after November, there's still an above-average number of significant discounts on wrench and screwdriver sets, drills, lawn care tools and more.

It's a jolly time to buy Christmas decorations … after Christmas

At this point, it's common knowledge that holiday decorations see their greatest discounts after the holiday in question has passed, and this is no different for Christmas. If you wait until Dec. 26, you'll see discounts of 50% to 70% off seasonal goods.

Woman shopping at a store © Jack Hollingsworth, Brand X, Getty ImagesHowever, if you absolutely must buy a fake Christmas tree before Dec. 25, look to Walmart, Kmart and J.C. Penney for inexpensive options.

Stock up on kitchen items for more holiday cooking

Although we noted that November sees the greatest number of cookware and kitchen deals, many sales and discounts last year carried over into December and resulted in an uptick in the number of Editors' Choice prices. Look for cutlery sets, bakeware, small appliances and more from Macy's, Kohl's, Amazon, Williams-Sonoma and Sears.

Skip buying jewelry for the holidays

Sorry, guys. As our media editor, Jeff Somogyi, put it last year, "Big Jewelry" has you in a corner this month. Jewelry just doesn't see its best discounts of the year before Christmas. Sure, savings exist, but you likely won’t be getting the best deal.

You can still try to get a discount through broad department store coupons that apply to jewelry. However, many stores, such as Macy’s, frequently exclude jewelry from those offers.

For electronics deals, wait until 2014 models debut

If you didn't jump on the electronics deals during Black Friday weekend, then at this point you might as well wait until January or February to buy a digital camera, TV or other device. The Consumer Electronics Show in January is the official launch for many 2014 models, which means that goods from 2013 will begin to see a round of discounts.

Put off buying a 2014 wall calendar

You'll see modest discounts throughout the month and into 2014 that may entice you to purchase a calendar, but the first significant sales we'll see on those items come at the end of January and beginning of February. (You can, of course, see even bigger discounts the longer you put it off, but you actually want to use the calendar, right?)

Mainstream Haswell laptops undercutting Ivy Bridge

Opting for previous-generation tech is one of the best ways to save money on computer purchases, which is why we’ve generally recommended opting for Intel's Ivy Bridge processor instead of Haswell. But for the past three months, 15-inch Core i5 Haswell laptop deals have averaged $408; 15-inch Core i5 Ivy Bridge machines have averaged $409.

Though we still think Ivy Bridge laptops will likely drop further, we'd naturally recommend going for the Haswell laptop if the difference in price is minor. So if you’re in the market for a new laptop, make sure to look for both options, as the higher-end system might not be priced at the usual premium.

Brand-name TV discounts on the horizon; Panasonic's plasma farewell

If the deluge of TV deals we saw last month didn't tempt you, the deals we see in the next few months might. While there are typically some noteworthy brand-name deals in November, the month is mostly devoted to third-tier manufacturers like Insignia, Dynex and Westinghouse. December marks the start of deals on high-end, brand-name TVs from the likes of Samsung, Panasonic and LG.

For instance, last year 55-inch 3-D HDTVs dropped an extra 6% during the month of February (versus their low in November). While that may not sound like a lot, it could mean keeping an extra $50-plus in your pocket. Expect these deals to begin in December and taper off in February.

On a different note, Panasonic recently announced it will be ending production of its highly rated plasmas this month. While the news itself doesn't guarantee a fire sale on Pannie plasmas, it could encourage some retailers to discount the remaining stock they have, especially with new HDTVs being announced at CES in January.

So if you want the most bang for your buck, it’s worth looking at Panasonic plasma deals in the coming months. Popular models to look at include the VT60, ST60 and S60, to name a few, the latter of which is the company's budget plasma.

More on DealNews:

Dec 7, 2013 3:33PM
Saving is nice but when I see a calendar that I want I don't care what it cost. I get it, I can suffer the 2-3 buck set back over the next year. Wait to get it and it will be gone.
Dec 7, 2013 5:59PM
Worst month to buy anything. Stores know you must buy gifts for Christmas so they keep prices high and don't discount much. And don't be fooled by 50%, 75% or more off, everything is marked up 1,000% or more! Huge profit margins for the stores and slim savings for you. So, if the price seems reasonable to you buy it. Know what stuff sells for normally and you will know a good deal when you see it. Do your homework. I was disappointed with this years Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, I did not see any good deals.
Dec 8, 2013 10:45AM
I get my naked girl calendars early so I can appreciate each month as each occurs.
Dec 6, 2013 11:09PM
So, captfrdom:  This article is about buying a new TV. Are you telling us that your health insurance you bought for your new TV got cancelled? What kind of person would go and buy health insurance for a TV anyway??!!
And while you're being cheap and waiting everything sells out.
Dec 9, 2013 8:26AM

How about cars?  My neighbor was considering buying a new Toyota and asked me if it was a good time.  I told him its never a good time to buy from the manufacturer of the most recalled vehciles for the last five years in a row.  So he decided against a new lexus. 

Then he asks me about a Honda. Sorry Bill.  Thats the #2 recaller.

He bought a new Taurus.

Dec 9, 2013 2:51PM
Screw The Man!!  Don't buy anything. Be frugal and simplify. 
Dec 7, 2013 11:24AM
captfrdom knows what the article is about, he also knows that obamacare forces people to buy something they may not want or need, Panasonic does not. Unlike most liberals he also knows socialism doesn't work, never has, never will.
Dec 2, 2013 2:53PM
A Health insurance policy you like....with OBAMACARE in place it will only get cancelled.
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